GM Mosquitoes: No Olfaction, No Sting

Alessia Andreotti
June 22nd 2013

Summer is coming… along with the mosquitoes! The solution to clouds of biting insects? Mosquitoes that ignore human beings, a dream come true. At the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, researchers have genetically altered mosquitoes’ sense of smell. If unable to sniff out the scent of human skin, they won’t bite us.

“They love everything about us. They love our beautiful body odor, they love the carbon dioxide we exhale and they love our body heat. By disrupting a single gene, we can fundamentally confuse the mosquito from its task of seeking humans” explains Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at The Rockefeller University in New York, who led the latest study.

Mosquitoes have specialized sensing systems for detecting carbon dioxide and body heat, but body scent is the only one of these features that distinguishes humans from other warm-blooded animals.

This study, published in Nature, not only proves that mosquitoes can be genetically modified using the latest research techniques, but helps us understand why the insect is so attracted to humans, and how to stop that attraction. These findings could also aid scientists in developing new insect repellents to combat malaria, dengue and agricultural pests.

This is not the first time we've run experiments on mosquitoes. Do you remember the Mosquitoes Engineered Into Flying Vaccinators?

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Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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